I pass by the spot with a heavy heart, remembering the first day of my position as interim chaplain. I felt so small and unprepared for this monumental dream job. And then I passed the tree, with it's heart shaped hole, on my way to my chapel office. I stopped to take a picture as a reminder to myself that it's all about love. That's what I have to offer; that is my calling to share. The tree was not beautiful, it was massive and imposing, but its scar softened its lofty stance.
When the recent winds came and whirled us all into darkness, the trees suffered much abuse. Some large ones came down around campus, smashing bridges to bits, knocking off a portion of the library's roofing material, and blocking passageways. My heart tree lost a hulking amount of branches, but continued to stand tall for a while. And then a smaller storm came through and my tree lost the battle. Its large trunk snapped, splintering limbs in all directions, leaving the squirrels to run, chattering, among the ruins, in search of home.
We, too, are buffeted by the storms of life. They scatter us, confuse us, as we scramble for home and safety. We suffer hurts that leave scars-- physical, emotional, and spiritual. Our scars can be a source of pain or (and) a source of strength. Sometimes they become part of our identity. That can be a gift (as when the disciple Thomas was able to recognize the risen Jesus by his scars). It is a reminder that we are both stronger and frailer than we seem. We are all broken, and yet, we find hope that our brokenness will not defeat us, but allow us to connect more deeply with God and with our neighbors.
As my tree gets broken down into firewood and mulch, I have to wonder what other purposes my life will serve. How can I seek healing for my brokenness as I also minister to others through it? How will I find my strength (in God) when the storms blow through? What needs to be cut away in my life to make me stronger, and what losses must I surrender to find stability? Are my roots firmly planted and am I growing in the right direction, up towards the heavens, towards my Creator?
God, give us roots. Plant us firmly and protect us through the storms. Amen.
3They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. (Psalm 1:3)